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George Soros has donated more than $8 billion globally to his Open Society Foundations. Couple that with decades of investing around the world and it would be easy to assume Soros in a figure of global popularity.
Only he isn’t. He’s almost the polar opposite.
Soros made headlines recently warning of increased economic problems, the growth of Occupy Wall Street and government repression what he characterized as “strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order.” In short, the kind of chaos helped foment in the old Soviet Union and elsewhere.
In his book “Open Society,” Soros credits his foundation with “mobilizing civil society” against the government in Slovakia and Croatia, among others. He readily calls himself “an active participant in the revolution that swept away the Soviet system.”
So when Soros talks of chaos, it’s a subject he knows well. The only question is his involvement.
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Most everywhere Soros, his foundations or his investment money has gone, trouble has followed.
He’s helped start revolutions, undermined national currencies and funded radicals around the world.
His “foundations have been accused of shielding spies and breaking currency laws” and his investing strategy has been targeted for harming several national currencies.
That’s not the story the broadcast networks have been telling about Soros for the past five years.
There were 29 mentions of Soros during that time but only one gave any hint at trouble, and that was merely to mention he was “still known as the man who broke the Bank of England.”
But ABC followed that description up with: “That was all legal.”
Only a sex scandal with a 28-year-old Brazilian actress gave Soros any negative publicity at all.
But there have been lots of negatives in Soros’s past as he’s spread his influence around the world. Soros wears criticism like a badge of honor.
“I have now come under attack in several countries: in Hungary from Hungarian nationalists; in Romania from the Vatra Romanesca; in Slovakia from the communist party newspaper Pravda; in the Soviet Union by the organ of the hard-liners Sovietskaia Russiya,” he claims in “Underwriting Democracy.”
Soros’s Open Society Fund was created in 1979 as a charitable lead trust. Even its creator admitted his motives were “basically selfish” and he wanted a “tax gimmick.” He did it as a “trust for his children”
While Soros has been known worldwide for his investment skills, he hasn’t always managed to stay clear of the authorities.
He was found guilty in France of an insider trading case about 20 years ago and has repeatedly failed at having that news pulled from his record.
According to The New York Times, in September 2011, a French panel upheld his conviction because “he had bought and sold shares of Société Générale in 1988 with the knowledge that the bank might be a takeover target.”
He was fined $3 million.
His fund ran into problems in Hungary, where Soros was born and lived till his late teen years. At issue was how he handled an investment into the “the country’s largest bank”: OTP.
“His fund was fined $2 million by Hungarian regulators last week for having manipulated OTP’s stock price,” wrote The New York Times in 2009.
Even when he has steered clear of legal ramifications, he had some questionable dealings. In 1999, New York Times economist (and now Nobel Prize winner) Paul Krugman skewered Soros in a piece for Slate.com.
The story, “Don’t Blame It on Rio … or Brasilia Either,” accused Arminio Fraga Neto of working with Soros in his role as president of Brazil’s central bank. Fraga was upset, saying he “did not have access to any privileged information” and Krugman posted a formal apology saying “Fraga has behaved entirely properly.”
A very positive profile of Soros in The New Republic in 1994 still explained that his investing angered several nations. “The president of the European Community and representatives of the French and Belgian governments have accused him of orchestrating ‘an Anglo-Saxon plot’ to undermine the French currency.
The British government blames him for driving sterling from the European Monetary System,” wrote Michael Lewis.
Soros’s currency moves have long been controversial.
The magazine Foreign Policy ran a cartoon of the billionaire in 2000 that shows Soros torturing a James Bond character and saying “You saw what my awesome destructive powers did to the British pound and Malaysian ringgit, 007 … Do you think your puny governments can stop me?” reported The Washington Post.
Speaking of foreign policy there’s also the Soros foreign policy.
Morton Abramowitz of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace once said Soros became the “only private citizen who had his own foreign policy.”
That remains true, though it often conflicts with that of the United States where he is now a citizen. He has even helped fund the non-profit group called Independent Diplomat, with the motto “a diplomatic service for those who need it most.” It represented Kosovo, Somaliland and the Polisario Front of Western Sahara, according to The New York Times. All three were looking for recognition as independent states.
Soros was targeted by anti-globalization protesters at the 2001 World Economic Forum in Brazil. An Argentinian activist called him a “hypocrite and a monster,” reported the BBC. The next day he had to cancel a trip to Thailand “after protestors threatened to pelt him with rotten eggs and excrement.”
In 2004, “two young men threw water and mayonnaise at him” in Ukraine, accusing Soros of trying to push a “velvet revolution” just like had happened in Georgia, reported the BBC. That same year, a critic of that nation’s government said “Georgia does not exist right now, it is only another U.S. state whose governor is George Soros,” wrote Al Jazeerah.
His efforts went so poorly in Russia that they came close to open combat.
In November, 2003 Al Jazeera reported, “men in battle fatigues have raided the Moscow headquarters of billionaire investor George Soros.” One of the Open Society executives said the attackers had removed documents as a “climax to a long-running commercial dispute.” Soros’s fund pulled out of Russia that year, after having lost a reported $2 billion.
Soros has enormous global influence – typically purchased by either his own hand or his Open Society Foundations.
At one point, he funded the entire government of the then-new nation of Georgia. “George Soros, the New York financier, helped to establish a special anticorruption fund to supplement the paltry salaries of most government employees, from the president (who gets $1,500 a month) down to border guards ($500 a month)," wrote The New York Times in 2004.
In 2008, he gave $50 million to Millennium Promise, run by Soros buddy and economist Jeffrey Sachs. The goal of the project is to get “the world’s 22 richest nations” to increase their foreign aid budgets. He gave another $27 million in 2011 to a related project.
Soros has spread billions around he world – even to helpful projects. But his liberal views and aggressive undermining of governments makes everything he does suspect.
Given his sweeping global influence, you would think some traditional media outlet might look into that. Oh, that's right, he funds journalists, too.